On this day in 1952, Maurice “Rocket” Richard scored the 325th goal of his career to become the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer.
The goal came in a 6-4 Canadiens win over the Chicago Black Hawks at the Montreal Forum. At 10:01 of the second period, Richard fired a backhand shot from high in the slot that trickled past Black Hawks goalie Al Rollins and into the net.
Once the puck went in, the crowd of more than 14,000 fans “shook the building with their shouts and pelted debris down on the ice,” Hall of Famer Dink Carroll wrote in the next day’s edition of the Montreal Gazette. The goal came less than a minute after Richard’s teammate, Elmer Lach, recorded the 200th goal of his career, giving fans two milestones to celebrate.
Richard’s marker came 10 years to the day after he scored his first career goal and put him one ahead of Nels Stewart, who held the all-time record for 15 years.
According to Carroll, Richard received a telegram from Stewart before the game was even over to congratulate him on breaking the record.
“It was the greatest thrill of my hockey career,” Richard said of scoring the goal, according to the Gazette. “But I’m glad it’s over. Too much pressure.”
The Queen and the Rocket
Queen Elizabeth II, who had only been in the role for a few months when the record was broken, was a big fan of Richard after she and Prince Phillip attended a Canadiens game in 1951.
For that reason, Canadiens GM Frank Selke announced after the game that the puck Richard scored the record-breaking goal with would be sent to Her Majesty as a gift. According to Carroll, Selke said the puck would be engraved with a photo of the Queen and Prince taken from the game they attended on one side and a photo of Richard on the other.
Richard would later meet the Queen when she toured Canada in 1959.
The Rocket’s Legacy
Richard retired in 1960 at age 39 with multiple records to his name. At the time, he was still the all-time goal-scoring leader with 544 goals, a record that stood until Gordie Howe broke it in the 1963–64 season. His record for most career playoff goals — 82 — wasn’t broken until Mike Bossy reached 83 in the 1985–86 post-season.
Richard was the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season and the first to score 400 and 500 goals. Although he is now 31st on the all-time list, his legacy as a goal-scorer will never be forgotten thanks to the award bearing his name, which goes to the player who scores the most goals each season.